It’s not long now until the campaigning around the Scottish independence referendum kicks into high gear ahead of the vote next year on the 18th of September. With the SNP conference underway in Perth, I thought I’d detail the the independence debate as it stands at the moment, and where I stand on certain key issues.
Never before in my lifetime have I seen campaigning of any political nature such a long way before the polls, apart from US Presidential Elections. This is, undoubtedly, the biggest vote that we, as Scots, will have in our lifetime. We should all definitely have an interest in the vote, even if it means we are unsure. I believe that we should all, indeed, be undecided about our vote until very close to the day of reckoning. A lot can happen in a year of politics.
To nail my colours to the mast, I’m looking at the referendum from a slightly Unionist perspective. I don’t see how Scotland will be any economically stronger being independent, in the modern age. And the economy is, for sure, the biggest and most relevant issue in the independence debate for most Scots, including myself.
A recent report from the Scottish Government’s own advisors said that Scotland “could have paid off its’ debts 30 years ago” if it had the oil revenues it would have been due; and that the ‘Oil Fund’ that the SNP proposes to create to help develop an independent Scotland “would have been worth £117 billion in 2011”. However, we are now told that there would need to be tax rises or spending cuts to even create such a fund. I think the time for Scotland’s independence would have been in the 1970s, when North Sea oil was discovered, and we could reap the rewards of it as a nation. Now that we are past peak oil, we can’t look to the future with dollar signs in our eyes. Renewable energy is an exciting prospect, and it will boost Scotland’s economy, but not in the way that oil has.
Another argument I subscribe to is that of defence, and presence on a world stage. Scotland is part of one of the largest economies in the world, a member of NATO, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and is defended by one of the most advanced armies in the world. Losing all of this, and being reduced to a “Scottish Defence Force” as the Yes campaign plans, is ludicrous to me, as it is largely a knee-jerk reaction (in historic terms) to the Iraq war. We should not renounce foreign intervention because of one conflict which was controversial, despite achieving its’ stated aims.
Despite my Unionist sympathies, there are arguments from the Yes campaign that I agree with too. I do believe Scotland should have more self-autonomy in areas like benefits, transport, broadcasting and energy. Scotland IS a unique nation, and OUR government should be able to tailor its’ policies to our needs.
However, and this is what I can’t stress enough, I cannot make my mind up about which way I shall vote in the referendum without seeing the full arguments from both sides. On Tuesday 26th November, the SNP Scottish Government will release its’ white paper, which will be a “blueprint” for independence. Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy First Minister, has assured us that the unanswered questions about independence will be answered within. After we have definitive answers from the Yes campaign, and the Scottish Government, as to what independence will mean in different areas, we will then be able to begin to decide what we should vote for.
A Yougov poll for The Times with one year to the referendum put the No campaign on 52% and the Yes campaign on 32% with 13% undecided. As Alex Salmond stated yesterday whilst opening the SNP conference, the campaign is far from over though, with many policies on both sides not fully detailed. The effect of the UK Government on the election could also be significant, in my opinion. With a General Election in 2015, the Tory/Lib Dem coalition may be forced into making decisions which prove unpopular with the Scottish population, which would be reflected in a shift towards the Yes campaign.
It’s going to be an exciting year in Scottish politics, even if you’re only interested in the one day.
This article is also featured on the Great Scottish Debate website.